The Danger of a Single Story – Chimamanda Adichie!
Updated: December 13, 2009
In Ladies and Gentlemen; Allow me to introduce you to TED, I give a call to action to spend some time on the website TED, encouraging you to learn, share and reconnect.
Who would I be if I didn’t participate in the same?
To that end, allow me to introduce you to Chimamanda Adichie.
In her speech, The Danger of a Single Story, Chimamanda tells of the perils of perpetuating and believing just one “story” about a situation, place or people.
In a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant but always charming manner, Chimamanda shares different scenarios through her life so far wherein she’s been involved in a “one story” situation.
Now, there’s nothing new about Chimamanda idea or viewpoint. It is her way of describing judgmental behavior and the pitfalls of such.
One of my favorite quotes from her speech is, “…The problem with stereotypes is not that they are not untrue…but they are incomplete.”.
I laughed out loud at her acknowledgement of traits that ring true in all of us yet and different sectors of us yet do not define us.
And, in the next moment, I was somber when she stated, “…The consequence of the single story is this…it robs people of dignity.”.
At that point, I really sat back and thought about how far reaching the dangers of a single story can truly be. I watched the speech several times over and, while it was a great reminder to be tolerant and nonjudgmental of others, my mind kept coming back to self.
I thought, “Do I see myself as only an intuitive? Or wife? Or teacher?”?
Then I thought, “This is why the whole interconnectedness thing is taking so long to get back to.”.
I think, for the most part…though this paradigm is shifting…we see ourselves and live our lives in a “single story”.
What’s worse, we treat each other based on the same.
Are you tied up in your single story? Do you see yourself as one dimensional?
How do you see others?
If you’re introduced to someone Jewish do you assume they are thrifty? If you’re introduced to someone from an Asian country do you assume they’re super smart?
If we see ourselves and the world around us in such a narrow manner, it’s simply impossible to see ourselves as part of Spirit because Spirit is All.
Take some time this week to give some thought as to how you see the world. Maybe flip through a magazine, look at a few pictures and write down the first five things that come to your mind.
I’d be willing to bet what first comes are assumptions or “judgments” about that person, place or thing’s background, image, personality and/or cultural or religious-spiritual traits.
You might immediately respond with thoughts like “Hmmm…really dark black and a nose ring…must be from Africa.” or “It must cost a lot of money to visit there.” or “What is that and who would buy it?!”.
Now… try this…take a look at the same pictures and write down five questions about that person, place or thing.
What do you want to know? Do you have to work to think of questions or does your interest in the world flow easily?
If the shoe were on the other foot and someone was staring at a picture of you – or staring at you in person – what would you want them to know?
See where I’m going with this?
Interconnectedness is being able to see ourselves as Spirit in others and acknowledge others as Spirit in ourselves.
Let me know how this exercise works for you by leaving comments here on my blog.
Chimamanda Adichie closed her TED speech with a single eloquent statement. I’ll take her lead and, respectfully, borrow her quote;
“When we reject the single story…we regain a kind of paradise…”.
– Chimamanda Adichie